How a Cancelled Event Led to a New Revenue Stream for One Nimble Organization

Finding new tricks with existing tech resulted in a huge revenue win for an association professional.

Like many organizations, the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting faced many challenges when their annual event was canceled in 2020. But unlike many organizations, the self-described “small-but-mighty” staff didn’t throw in the towel and accept their fate. They got to work.

In many instances during a crisis, there is the temptation to look far and wide for a miracle solution. But sometimes, as PAS Meeting’s Senior Resource Development Coordinator Kelly Schmalfeldt learned, the solution might be sitting right in front of you.

“We were using a retargeting platform to advertise our meetings and calls for scientific research,” explains Schmalfeldt. “With retargeting, you are able to cookie anyone who visits your website and then serve content and ads to them wherever they may go on the internet. After our event was canceled, we learned about a monetization feature in the platform that would allow us to offer those same retargeting capabilities to our event sponsors and exhibitors. Basically, sponsors would be able to serve ads to the people who visited our site—the same audience they would have been in front of at an in-person event.”

Schmalfeldt thought it sounded like a good opportunity, but she soon learned it wasn’t just good—it was great. “We began pitching it and had one sponsor sign on before we actually committed with Feathr,” she says, “so that was a very good sign for us!”

It has proven so successful that PAS Meeting was featured in a case study and plans to continue to offer this digital feature long after events return to normal. “We had a sponsor who purchased a 50,000-impression campaign during our virtual meeting,” says Schmalfeldt. “For our in-person 2022 meeting, that same sponsor has signed up for a 200,000-impression campaign. So people are still very, very excited about our retargeting campaigns.”

What this shows, Schmalfeldt says, is that it is extremely important for professionals in the association world to be open to new opportunities—and not hesitate to take them when they arise. “This idea was brought to us—it wasn’t something we came up with on our own. But we were able to listen and quickly pivot, and it has paid off more than we could have hoped.”

For those who are averse to taking big chances on new ideas, Schmalfeldt recommends advertising your offering before you sign on. “Go out to your exhibitors first and see if there are any takers. If there are, then there is very little risk for your investment.”

Constant innovation is a key to the culture within PAS Meeting, so the search is constantly on to find new technology or new ways to utilize existing tools. “We are such a small team, so we are always looking for ways to improve our day-to-day tasks and optimize our time,” explains Schmalfeldt. “When you find tech like this that not only allows you to get campaigns running quickly, but also gives advertisers a data dashboard so they can stay informed? It saves you so much time and effort, and allows you to put that energy into creative thinking and finding ways to serve your community better.”